By Carolyn Crist

October 28, 2020 — As people eagerly await new updates about potential coronavirus vaccines, questions still remain about how well they will work and what they will do to stem the pandemic.

Importantly, the initial COVID-19 vaccines will prevent symptoms in those who become infected with the coronavirus rather than kill the virus itself, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit on Monday.

“The primary thing you want to do is that if people get infected, prevent them from getting sick, and if you prevent them from getting sick, you will ultimately prevent them from getting seriously ill,” he said.

Preventing symptoms is a “primary endpoint” in the vaccine development process, Fauci said. Getting rid of the virus altogether is considered a “secondary endpoint.”

“What I would settle for, and all of my colleagues would settle for, is the primary endpoint to prevent clinically recognizable disease,” he said. “And that’s what we hope happens, and if we do, that will go a long way to diffusing this very difficult crisis that we’re in.”

With reduced severe symptoms, the coronavirus would pose a lower threat as a pandemic. Then scientists could focus on developing a solution that would reach the full goal of preventing initial infection.

Several vaccine candidates are in late-stage clinical trials in the U.S., and safety and efficacy data could be ready for review by the end of the year. That would make initial doses available to frontline workers around the end of 2020 and beginning of 2021 and pave the way for widespread distribution several months into 2021.

Mitigation strategies such as wearing face masks, social distancing and avoiding large crowds will be important in preventing the spread of infection for “quite some time,” Fauci said.

“Adhering to public health measures now is going to make it easier and more quickly get to where we want to go, which is approaching some form of normality,” he said.

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